Strong Start: Family, Future, and Marbles

marbles-1421822-1279x1699[GUEST POST: Andrew Epp ~ Family Pastor]

On Sunday we continued in our series on starting 2016 strong, and specifically in the area of our families. During the sermon we journeyed with a family via video and watched their baby grow up and eventually move out, showing us that there are different phases in life and we need to make sure we don’t miss them.

If you missed it you can find the video’s and the presentation here:

Here are the 5 questions we looked into on Sunday:

  • How am I connecting my child to a wider circle of influence?
  • Who do I want my child to become?
  • How am I fighting for the heart of my child?
  • How has spiritual development been part of our family rhythm this week?
  • Is my relationship with God, growing, authentic and personal?

Here are some of the main points that we discussed on Sunday:

Parenting priorities

  • What matters more than anything is that my kids have an authentic relationship with God.
  • My wife and I are not the only adult influences my children need.
  • My children need to know that I will never stop fighting for a right relationship with them.
  • My relationship with God and with my wife affects my children more than I realize.
  • Just being together can never substitute for interacting together in a meaningful way.

No one has more potential to influence your child than you.

  • You are the primary influence in the life of your child.
  • Teachers, pastors and coaches will never have as much potential to influence a child’s character, self-esteem, perspectives, or faith as a parent does.
  • That teacher pastor or coach will have influence that is temporary, your influence as a parent will be permanent.
  • Your relationship gives you the potential to influence in ways that others cannot.

You are not the only influence your children need.

  • tap into other influences that also have the potential to impact your children’s future.
  • You can leave your children alone to discover random influences who will shape their character and faith, or you can help them proactively pursue strategic relationships for their lives.

Two combined influences will make a greater impact than just two influences.

If they work together they can potentially make a greater impact than if they work alone.  

The 5 questions at the beginning of the page are focused around 5 values come from the book Parenting beyond your capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Value 1) Parenting Values Widen the Circle

  • Invite others to invest in your children, so that your sons and daughters have other voices that help shape and determine the direction of their lives.
  • The time will come when your child needs another trusted adult who would give them a safe place to wrestle with difficult issues.
  • The church has huge potential to provide community for children. Research tell us that teens who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives were more likely to keep attending church and that the more adults the better.
  • This community gives them a sense of belonging and significance.
  • It allows mentors to DO ministry with the child and serve with them.
  • Widen this circle as early as possible before children need them so that they will be there when they need them.

Key Question: How am I connecting my child to a wider circle of influence?

Value 2) Imagine the End

  • Focus your energy and effort on the issues that matter most and will make a lasting impact.
  • It is more important to leave a legacy of faith rather than an inheritance of wealth.
  • Moses said everything I have said and everything I will say hinges on one essential truth: our God is God. Everything is really about Him.
  • A child’s relationship with God is more important than their relationship with parents. That they would pursue a relationship with God as their highest priority.

Key Question: What do I want my child to become?

Value 3) Fight for the Heart

  • Create a culture of unconditional love in your home to fuel the emotional and moral health of your children.
  • Sometimes it is easy to win an argument and force the right behaviour, but lose the heart in the process.
  • Don’t fight with your children, fight for
  • One of the greatest gifts parents can give to their children is simply to prove that they can be trusted over the long haul.
  • Key Question: How am I fighting for the heart of my child

Create a Rhythm

  • Tap into the power of quality moments together, and build a sense of purpose through your everyday experiences.
  • Increase the quantity of quality time you spend together.
  • Much of daily life consists of repeated patterns of waking up, eating, going out and going to bed.
  • Deut 6 talks about impressing faith as we sit at home, walk along the road, lie down and get up. Consider the following ideas:
    • Eating meals together is an optimal times to have a focussed discussion. Use a variety of discussion starters, games and activities, before, during or after a meal. Make it natural and fun.
    • Walking or travelling together provides a great opportunity for informal dialogue in a nonthreatening environment.
    • Tucking children into bed can be a great time to have an intimate conversation and listen to the heart of your child.
    • Getting up in the morning provides a blank page for the family to start fresh relationally. Just a few encouraging words carefully spoken or written can give your children a sense of value and instil purpose.

Key Question: How has spiritual development been part of our family rhythm this week?

Value 5) Make It Personal

  • Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth.
  • When it comes to spiritual and character formation, your journey impacts them deeply. If you want it to be in them, it needs to be in you.
  • Let kids see your struggles. They need to see your authenticity and hear your transparency.
  • We are not expert parents before we start, but we learn as we go and we make spiritual growth a priority.
  • Find a community of friends who you to talk to and learn from.
  • Strengthen your relationship with your spouse. Don’t underestimate the importance of a child seeing a mother and a father engaged in friendship and interacting in an affectionate way.
  •  Key Question: Is my relationship with God, growing, authentic and personal?

 

Sometimes You See The Fruit

Mills17I think parenting is an exercise in trust and hope. I mean you spend hours and hours with your kids, coaching, guiding, and if you’re at all like us – disciplining your kids.

Sometimes if I’m honest you wonder if it’s all worth it. 

Like you know it’s all worth it, but after a giant fight at bath time, when your soaking, and kids are crying doubt creeps in. I think that’s why parenting is hard, because you are really playing the long-game in parenting. You are hoping that what you do today, pays off in decades. And it’s hard sometimes to keep motivated or to even know if all your effort is having an impact when the results are years and years away.

But then every now and then you see some glimmer, you see a glimpse, you see some of the fruit.

As many of you know Krista and I accepted a new position, so we’ll be moving and changing churches in the next few months. This was an incredibly hard decision, but one we feel certain about. A tough point though came when we came to tell our kids.

We sat down with Hudson, told him about the move. He asked great questions, he processed it all, and in the end he asked to pray. This is what he prayed,

“Dear God help daddy to trust you with this move, find us the best house, best new friends, and help daddy with his new job to do really really great. Help mom and dad not to be sad, but excited. Amen”

And sometimes after hours and hours of wondering if anything sinks in, to little ears that don’t always seem to listen, you have a moment like this. You have a moment when you realize that your kids aren’t just kids, but people God speaks to. People who can pray better than you, and say the things you struggle to say, and people who remind you God is always working.

So all of this is to say that if you’ve had a long week with your kids, don’t forget all that’s growing underneath. Because when God reveals their little hearts, you realize all the effort is worth it. It’s always worth it.

Mirrors, Kids, and How They Pick Up Your Habits ~ Good and Bad

1376728_89968538Krista and I have started working out for the past couple of weeks in the mornings. My guess is that by the time you read this, we might be done though. Who knows how long we’ll keep it up.

The point though of this post isn’t on working out, or anything like that. It’s actually on habits, kids, and faith.

What I’ve noticed is that as we work out each morning, Hudson will often come quietly downstairs and do the exercises with us. He now talks about exercising, the importance of being healthy, and wanting to exercise. He now tries to do sit ups, in which his legs seem to go everywhere and is really funny.

The reason I mention all this is because we have never once talked to Hudson about working out, encouraged him to work out, or even shown him how to work out. Hudson has picked up all of this, just through watching and following.

The reason this stuck out to me is this: what else is he picking up from us without us realizing it? Is he picking up bad habits from us when we’re grumpy? Is he picking up good habits about being caring and friendly? And most importantly – is our faith so active and regular in our lives that he is picking that up too? That’s the real question that I’ve been thinking about.

Is our practice of following Jesus so explicit, regular, and everyday that our kids are picking it up naturally? Are they developing the habits and practices of faith because we are practicing them, just like Hudson is picking up exercising without any explicit mention of it?

I think that if you are a parent, grandparent, or have friends who are parents this is an important question. Do you/we have regular habits that demonstrate the importance of faith to our lives? Are we praying at meals – because it forms habits? Are we praying at bed-time and being grateful to God? Do our kids or grandkids ever catch us reading the Bible? Do we make a habit of church?

The point I want us to think through is this: if someone were watching our lives, would they start to pick up natural and good habits about following Jesus? Because what I am learning more everyday is that little people are always watching, and following our lead. So it is important to make sure we are leading them in the right direction.